Out of the 72 books I read last year, the following are my top 5.
Favorite Books of 2014 (in no particular order)
- How God Became Jesus: The Real Origins of Belief in Jesus’ Divine Nature – A Response to Bart Ehrman (Michael F. Bird, ed.) This is a response to Bart Ehrman’s How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee. Of course as a multi-authored work, some chapters are stronger than others; and at times it bears weaknesses expected in a project put together so rapidly (given that this was released on the same day as Ehrman’s book). However, this book on early Christology brings together a dream team of top experts in the field (Michael Bird, Craig Evans, Simon Gathercole, Chris Tilling, Chuck Hill) and is an excellent (and at times entertaining) read. It’s a fantastic introduction to the issues surrounding the origin and development of a fully divine Christology and very lay-accessible; but for the academically oriented, footnotes also provide ample guidance for further study in the way of highlighting key papers and books published on this topic. Most of the interaction that I saw with this book when it was first released was by NT students and scholars, but I think this book was more written for the “average person it the pew” who might never read Bauckham, Hurtado, etc. It is for them that this book is most crucial and necessary, in my opinion, and I think this book needs to be read by every “thinking” Christian. Multi-part review of this and Ehrman’s book here.
- The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic Theology (Jeremy Treat). This book is a revision of Treat’s dissertation at Wheaton under Kevin Vanhoozer. The atonement is one of my favorite topics of study and I love biblical and systematic theology, so it’s not a huge surprise that this book ended up among my favorites. However, objectively this is also a very important book with a unique contribution because it shows how two topics often torn asunder in the church as well as the academy (the atoning death of Christ on the cross and the kingdom of God) can and must be held together, by way of bringing together two disciplines that are usually also dichotomized (biblical and systematic theology). This is a lay-accessible theological work, and, like the title above, is one that I feel should be read by every “thinking” Christian. See a quote here and my review here.
- The Vine and the Son of Man: Eschatological Interpretation of Psalm 80 in Early Judaism (Andrew Streett). This book is a revised doctoral dissertation that investigates the eschatological and messianic interpretations of Psalm 80 from the time of its writing, through Second Temple Judaism, and into the New Testament. It’s a fascinating and valuable study bound to capture anyone with interest in the history of interpretation of Psalm 80 as well as Jewish messianic expectation in general. This is a must-read for NT students and scholars. My review here.
- From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective (David Gibson and Jonathan Gibson, ed.) This book actually came out in 2013, but I didn’t get to it until last year. I will just reiterate a description of this book that has already become somewhat cliché, but is so true: this is the definitive resource on definite atonement. If you cherish the doctrine, you need to buy this book. If you disagree with the doctrine, you also need to buy this book. From the thinking layperson to the theological student and scholar, this book is a valuable resource for all. Quote here, my review here, and book website here.
- Paul and the Law: Keeping the Commandments of God (Brian Rosner). This book also came out in 2013, but again, I didn’t have a chance to read it until last year. A lot of you reading this probably know that I kind of have a thing for Paul. I don’t care that he’s unhip and that all the cool kids have moved on to Gospels and Hebrews….I. Love. Paul. Anyway, in this volume of IVP Academic’s New Studies in Biblical Theology series, Brian Rosner uses a threefold approach (look at all the evidence, use the biblical-theological method, and treat the law as unity) to look at three things that Paul does with the law (polemical repudiation, radical replacement, and whole-hearted reapropriation). This, again, is a book accessible to the lay-person but still beneficial to students and scholars. It would be a worthy addition to the Pauline studies section of any library.
- China’s Reforming Churches: Mission, Polity, and Ministry in the Next Christendom (Bruce P. Baugus, ed.) It’s rare for a missions book to focus on Presbyterian/Reformed mission rather than general missions. As such, this book is a must-read on missions for all who identify as Reformed, but especially for presbyterians with an interest in the history and current landscape of Presbyterian missions in China. Full review here.
- Jesus as a Figure in History, Second Edition: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee (Mark Allan Powell) I think this book is the best introduction to historical Jesus research. Full review here.
- The Gospel of the Lord: How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus (Michael F. Bird). This book belongs on the bookshelf of anyone with academic interest in gospels studies. It is an especially valuable resource for NT students and those potentially interested in pursuing doctoral studies in the Gospels. Full review here.